Political Updates from 1983: Organic Farming Act, Compact Free Association, and More

Organic farming makes a comeback, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council fend off mining corporations, Palau Islanders resist a U.S. Department of Defense proposal to store nuclear material, a mixed environmental impact from new jobs bill, and nuclear power plant construction moratorium is upheld.

| July/August 1983

  • palau-islands
     Palau's constitution has the world's first provision banning the storage, testing, and disposal of nuclear and toxic materials.

  • palau-islands

The defunct Organic Farming Act of 1982 is making a comeback as the Agricultural Productivity Act of 1983. Last year's bill died on the House floor when the measure came up before its backers could generate sufficient support in Congress. But this year's proposal, which is worded in more conservative language and accompanied by a well-coordinated lobbying effort, has received unprecedented support in both legislative chambers. 

The Productivity Act—which was introduced in the House by Oregon Democrat James Weaver and in the Senate by Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy—provides funds to: 

  1. Study the transition of 12 farms from energy-intensive operations to organic production (using water- and energy-conservation techniques and natural fertilizers). 
  2. Analyze the productivity of farms that have used conservation methods for the last five year. 
  3. Establish programs to pay part of farmers' costs for natural fertilizers and soil-erosion control. 
  4. Direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which has slashed its organic farming research) to reexamine existing extension materials. 

"Until recently," says Friends of the Earth's pesticide campaign coordinator, Bob Scowcroft, "a good deal of the public perceived organic farmers as a bunch of naked hippies in California. But this image is changing as organic farming is becoming a $100 million-per-year business. Superfarms may still have higher yields, but after borrowing [money] at 15 to 20% to cover costs, their owners frequently come out in the red, while organic farmers often come out in the black." 

It's not likely that the Productivity Act will shake the foundations of U.S. agriculture. But it should, if passed, help in making sustainable agriculture recognized as a profitable and environmentally sound method of farming. Apparently, Congress thinks so, since the bill has 51 cosponsors in the House and 13 in the Senate (as compared to a total of less than 20 for 1982's measure). The bill was scheduled for hearings in late May or early June, but action may be delayed: Contact your Representative about HR 2714 and your Senators about S 1128 to solicit their support 

Wisconsin Resources Protection Council to Fend off Mining Corporations

Midwestern environmentalists, local officials, and representatives of several American Indian tribes have banded together (as the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council) to fend off powerful mining interests in the region. And not a moment too soon: 20 large corporations have already bought or leased about 400,000 acres in the area. 

Exxon Corporation is leading the fray with its plans to develop what could be the world's largest copper and zinc lode near Crandon, Wisconsin, only two miles west of a Chippewa reservation. In fact, the Chippewas recently learned that Exxon hopes to be able to use part of their reservation for the project! The wastes from such a mining operation would threaten the tribe's water system, including the wild rice wetlands that are their major source of livelihood. Exxon's alternative disposal solutions are not being met with open arms, either, so the company is likely to get heavy opposition from the 80 different community groups that are resisting the plan 

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